Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sun, sand, sea - chilling at Patong Beach

Our cruise took us to two ports of call - KL and Phuket. We didn't get off at KL because the ship docked at Port Klang which is very far from the city. Getting a cab to and from the port is not that easy and the alternative is to pay quite a hefty price for transport organised by Legend.

We opted not to do this and we chose to go offshore only at Phuket instead.

Disembarking at Phuket is very convenient as the ship is tendered a short distance from Patong Beach itself. You take a small boat which brings you directly to the beach in about 10 minutes.

There are many shops in the streets and alleys directly behind Patong Beach and we went to take a look but we found that the area has degenerated into a tourist trap compared to a few years ago. The stall holders quote exorbitant prices for what are basically cheap apparel and accessories, and when you decide not to buy, they can become nasty and rude. No Thai hospitality here.

Here's my advice: you can find similar merchandise at Singapore pasar malams and shopping carts in heartland malls, and at better prices. Skip the shops at Patong Beach.

Back at the beach, you'll be assaulted by many touts trying to get you to part with your money on anything from deck chairs and coconut drinks to parasailing and taxis to elephant rides. Tip: if you want to take part in any of the sea sports, prices tend to go down as you walk further from the pier. Bargaining is imperative! 

Andre wanted to try jet-skiing and we negotiated for a half-hour ride on a two-seater for 13,000 THB (about S$50), with two deck chairs thrown in for good measure.

 Action man suiting up.

And off they went! The guide offered to go with Kenneth and Andre, and it turned out to be a good thing cos he knew how to make the jet-ski do fast turns and stuff.

While the boys were gone, Lesley-Anne went into photo mode while I lazed by the beach and people-watched.

The boys returned, invigorated. Apparently, Andre had gotten into the driver's seat and gunned the engine like there's no tomorrow. How did we raise a speed demon?  He loved it so much he wanted to go again.  Too bad, we'd run out of baht.

We headed back to the ship. Sun, sand, sea - that always makes for a great outing.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Plain sailing - having fun on board

Some people may wonder if being cooped up on a cruise ship is boring. For us, this was never a problem as we managed to find lots of activities on board that interest us. Legend of the Seas is especially teen-friendly, more so than Virgo, I reckon. There is a club (I think it's called Explorer) which organises all sorts of group activities for teenagers each day.

Our kids are not really into group activities so in the end, Lesley-Anne only attended one - a scrapbooking session. She even received a complimentary scrapbooking pack of stickers and fancy paper, which I thought was pretty generous.

Andre spurned the scheduled activities. Instead, he fully embraced all the sports and game facilities - there is a wide gamut to choose from. At the entertainment centre, there is foosball and a small arcade.

24-hour shuffleboard (not that we knew the rules of the game but that didn't stop Andre from enjoying himself).

There are four table tennis tables and they are very popular. You often have to wait for one to be available.

Of course, there are the pools, but compared to Virgo's (which are larger plus they have that fantastic water slide), Legend's weren't as fun. Andre went swimming just once and he didn't like it because they were small and filled with sea water.

Legend, however, is great for fitness buffs. There's a very well equipped gym which looks out to the sea and a 1.6km running track on the top deck. Since kids under 16 are not allowed in the gym, Andre had to make do with the open air track. We even went jogging as a family to assuage our guilt over the calories we were piling on. 

One of the biggest attractions of Legend though, has to be the awesome rock climbing wall (Virgo only has a miniature version which is token at best). Both Lesley-Anne and Andre decided to have to go. You have to put on special shoes and all the necessary safety gear.

Andre only managed to make it halfway. Not enough upper body strength.

Then it was Lesley-Anne's turn.

Made it to the top! Way to go, girl!

Another facility that we tried out was mini golf. The course on Legend is quite good and well maintained.  Better than Virgo's.

Andre had so much fun he insisted on going back to play in the evenings. As it turns out, mini golf is even more fun at night! It's cooler and less crowded.

And that, in essence, is the great part about cruising - you have a mobile hotel and without having to go very far, you can always find something to do, even if it's in the middle of the night.

Coming up next: our offshore excursion to Phuket.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Man vs food

For many Singaporeans, the thought of all the food you can eat, anytime, is a drool-worthy proposal and certainly, this is the major attraction of a cruise. While this is true to a certain extent, by the third day, we had already decided to skip breakfast. Honestly, it gets too much very quickly.

Legend has only two complimentary restaurants compared to Virgo's three. In addition, Virgo has a number of paying restaurants which the balcony class patrons can use their vouchers at. What this means is that the dining crowd at Virgo tends to be nicely spread out while Legend's dining areas are usually packed.

While I felt the crowds more keenly on Virgo, the exception was in the dining areas. If you like to eat at popular times, eg 1pm and 7pm, be prepared to wait around for a table at Windjammer, the buffet restaurant (kinda like waiting for a table at a food court). Oh and you often have a share a table.

The spread is pretty good at Windjammer and one big factor for its crowd is that the other restaurant, Romeo & Juliet, offers a very limited Asian menu. Which means that if you can't live without your rice and noodles, chances are, you'll be here most of the time.

My biggest complaint though, had to be the coffee. Throughout the ship, they use Seattle's Best Coffee (I believe Burger King uses this as well). It's insipid and tastes more like weakly medicated water.  If you want a decent cuppa on board, I recommend bringing your own 3-in-1.

Lesley-Anne, savouring her new-found photographic fervour, found the dining rooms to be full of inspirational imagery. She declared, "Jello makes everything look better!" Andre was a more than willing subject for this experiment. This resulted in what she dubbed the Jello Chronicles.

My budding photographer - one of the few times she's not behind the lens.

Romeo & Juliet is the more formal dining restaurant where you're shown your seats, so no waiting around. However, most of the tables here are large, so seating tends to be shared as well. To us, this is a big, big minus as it restricts us from talking freely (we like making silly comments, eg. "hey, that pudding looks like a slice of Spongebob!") It can also get annoying if you're seated at the same table as a toddler who insists on clanging on his glass incessantly with a fork.

So in terms of seating arrangements, Virgo wins hands down. Food quality-wise, the ships are more or less even - both had their hits and misses.

At Romeo & Juliet, we found their beef to be consistently good. Their prime rib was absolutely mouth-watering - so tender the knife sliced through it like butter.  One of the best I've tasted anywhere.

Beef shoulder filet, very well done too.

Gnocchi, not so good. Starchy and under-seasoned. Legend's pastas are nothing to shout about.

In terms of appetisers, this crabmeat and shrimp salad was a highlight. Very tangy and refreshing.


Pumpkin soup with walnuts, also pretty good.


We had breakfast at Romeo & Juliet once. Smoked salmon with bagel and cream cheese. 

Yes, I know these are only Fruit Loops. But they do look so pretty on camera.

And then, there were the desserts. If I'm being honest though, most of the desserts at Romeo & Juliet looked better than they tasted. Their chocolate desserts, especially, fell short of our chocoholic standards.

This was a chocolate souffle with coffee liquor.

One of the winning desserts here - a blueberry cobbler with ice cream. Kenneth also enjoyed a banana crème brûlée (not shown).

Key lime pie. Too sweet and not sufficiently tart. 

When in doubt, you can't go wrong with ice cream or sherbert. There is a different selection of flavours everyday.

Since tables are assigned at Romeo and Juliet, we had the same waiter throughout the cruise. Ours was Jasper, who looked after us very well.

On the last evening, they gathered all the cooks and waiters on the stairway who sang to the patrons. I really salute them. It's no mean feat to churn out 16,000 meals a day.

Apart from the two in-dining restaurants, there's a snack bar called the Solarium that offers pizzas, burgers, hot dogs and fries.

On the last day, we thought we'd try having lunch here for a change. It was a mistake - the food was atrocious (Lesley-Anne's photo definitely oversells it).  Only the hot dog was passable, the pizzas were simply inedible. We beat a hasty retreat back to Windjammer.


And as if the kitchen staff were afraid patrons might not have enough to eat, a supper party was organised one night, with a buffet by the pool and entertainment provided by the Royal Caribbean singers and dancers. 

All the yao kui folks, us included, tucked in with relish. And despite telling ourselves we wouldn't eat much, we still managed to polish off a significant number of fried chicken wings. As you know, one can never have too much fried chicken. Burp.


Next post: Activities on board Legend of the Seas.